Norberto “Betto” Herrera is originally from Guayaquil, Ecuador, where his mother was born and raised. His father was a fisherman from Peru, who fell in love with Betto’s mother during his visit to the port city of Guayaquil. Sadly, his father, for whom Betto is named, was killed when he was only three years old. Betto is very proud of his heritage and grateful to have grown up surrounded by music and dance. His mother worked hard to immigrate to the United States, and was able to bring Betto and his two younger brothers a few years later.
Betto moved to West New York, New Jersey with his family in 1996, when he was a teenager. His desire to stay in touch with his Latin roots brought him to Ismael Otero, one of the pioneers of mambo and salsa dancing in the area. He studied under Ismael until he enlisted in the U.S. Marines in 2000.
During his time at Camp Lejeune, Betto started Afro Latin dance classes for service members and their dependents at MCAS New River Enlisted Club and the Jacksonville USO in 2001. He also started attending Montas Lounge in Durham, NC, when he was quickly asked to teach lessons there. The classes were so popular that he was asked to teach and perform throughout other parts of North Carolina. He was honorably discharged and medically retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 2004, because of a car accident, in which he almost lost his life. He moved Raleigh in 2004 as soon as he was done with his duty, and requests for instruction and performances continued. And so, Mambo Dinamico was founded.
While living in Raleigh, Betto continued his dance training in different Latin dance styles. He trained in tango techniques with fellow instructor Daniel McClain. He also received mentorship and training from Cuban Master Felix “Pupy” Insua in Afro-Cuban movement and dance. Master Pupy’s knowledge and guidance helped Betto widen his perception towards dance to a larger scale. Because of him, Betto approaches Afro Latin dances as a way to create community and spread cultural awareness. In addition to ongoing dance training, Betto continues to expand his music repertoire and understanding through his mentor David Garcia, Associate Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As well as continue researching about the music and dance through his travels to Cuba and becoming a mentee of Maestra Marisol Blanco.
Apart of teaching dance and entertaining the public through performances, Betto has also been a leader in the community by promoting and educating people about the Latin culture. He has been an example to follow in public responsibility in the dance community, organizing fundraisings and disaster relief collections gathering tons of goods for victims in Ecuador, Haiti and Puerto Rico. Also being a spokesperson in different panels about the deep historical contribution of Latin people in the U.S. through music and dance. Also his proactiveness has led him to initiate the creation of a non-profit organization to promote safety and diversity in the Latin dance community. AALDA, the African and Afro-Latin Dance Association, which will coordinate and support efforts from Latin dance companies, instructors and event organizers across North Carolina.
In the past few years, Betto has taken his efforts of spreading his love and knowledge for Latin dance to academia, the private and public sector in NC. Creating educational programs, lectures and demonstrations for schools at all levels, from elementary school to Universities. The intention is to help the students develop their appreciation for Latin culture by exposing them to the percussion instruments and rhythms, as well as the dance and their history, while drawing parallels of the evolution of these elements in Latin America and the U.S. Betto has also been hired by many big corporations in RTP to present and educate their employees in the rich history of Latin music and dance. Betto has been invited as a speaker and presenter for the Veterans Affairs Hospital (Durham and Fayetteville), talking to disabled veterans about his personal story and entertaining them with his talents. Recently Betto had the honor to conduct a “Lunch-and-Learn Webinar” for the North Carolina Office of State Human Resources, which was casted to Human Resources Offices across the state.
Some highlights of Betto’s dance career include participating in international dance conferences in Washington, D.C.; New York City, NY; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Orlando, FL; Curacao, NA; Tokyo, Japan and many other cities. Betto was also appointed as the head judge of Southeast Salsa Open Dance Competition, as well as in the judging panel for the Peru Salsa Open. He has been featured in publications like Southern Living Magazine, News and Observer, The Independent Weekly, Cary Living Magazine, and LaVoz Del Mambo. Betto has also been interviewed and featured by local channels like Univision 40, WRAL and FOX50. He frequently is used as a subject for scholarly research by professors and students at local universities because of his expertise in Afro Latin dance and music.
Since Betto founded Mambo Dinamico he has transformed it into a premiere Afro Latin dance company that provides instruction, performances, and choreographies both nationally and internationally. The dance company feels absolutely blessed to have been able to serve more than 50,000 students since its beginning. Betto feels lucky that his love of dance turned into a lifelong career, and thankful everyday for his students and audiences that make it all possible.